Do you see red when someone calls you Ma’am? I detest the title and cannot contain my reaction which is usually, “Seriously…Ma’am?!”
Recently, I was lunching at Casa Mono in NYC (fab food) with decorator and designer Elizabeth Polish…do yourself a favor and check out her website, elizabethpolishdesign.com. Anyway, a rather tipsy, obnoxious businessman practically fell over Elizabeth’s chair and said, “Sorry, Ma’am!”
Neither of us are wallflowers and we simultaneously and spontaneously uttered, “Ma’am????!” The ass moved on to lick the boots of a super chef eating next to us. The Ma’am man’s associate witnessed the encounter and stopped by to inquire why Ma’am was so offensive. He said he had previously called women, “Ma’am” and had been met with the same reaction.
We both felt the term was condescending and analogous to an older demographic which we do not represent (Elizabeth is younger than me, as well). Noticing his wedding band, I asked if his wife had an opinion. He confirmed that she disliked the salutation.
In fact, both my twenty-something daughter and my 93 year-old mother cringe at being called, “Ma’am”. One of the junior members of my US Open team grew up in the deep south and called us all Ma’am…I recoiled, asked her to cease and desist, but it was too deeply ingrained.
It is actually a contraction of Madam, first recorded in 1668 and used as a polite form of address, especially to older women. It is often spoken when addressing the Queen instead of using, Your Majesty. In current times, Ma’am has done a 180 and is often considered insulting.
So, men and women of the world, unless I become Queen or open a brothel and assume the role of Madam, please refrain from addressing me and most of the female population as Ma’am.
Thanks in advance for your polite consideration…